The hits and misses of Larry Beinfest, Pt. 1


Inspired a bit by Matthew Pouillot’s piece on former Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro and Tom Tango’s response, I decided to take a look at our own general management brain trust and see how they fared in the trades they made so far. Of course, no examination of this Marlins front office would be complete without looking at Larry Beinfest and his accomplishments at keeping the Marlins afloat amidst a woeful payroll restriction.

For this, I decided to take on Beinfest’s trades/signings less in a hit/miss fashion and more in a good/push/bad fashion. Keep in mind, however, that this retrospective look is still attempting to keep things in the perspective at the time of the trade/signing. In other words, just because a player busted since getting here or leaving here doesn’t mean the move was a failure or success; we can only judge moves by how they looked at the time they were made. Let’s look into some of the more high profile moves and see how they turned out.

The Matt Clement/Dontrelle Willis Trade

Trade: The Marlins sent Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca to the Chicago Cubs for Julian Tavarez, Dontrelle Willis, Jose Cueto, and Ryan Jorgensen

Prognosis: Push

The Marlins had acquired Clement the year before as return for Mark Kotsay, but apparently were not pleased with his 5.14 ERA in 2001. The 4.34 FIP and almost 50% GB% belied a potential regression to a better player in 2002, but the Marlins did not wait and instead offered Clement and “bullpen ace” Alfonseca to the Cubs for a smorgasbord of uninteresting names. I don’t have a strong grasp on the Cubs system, but I believe Willis’ name was close to the top 10, while the others were of no import. Tavarez appeared to be a fairly suitable replacement, as he was more or less league average the last two seasons peripherally. This one was fairly even I think at the time of the trade.

Of course, the Marlins struck gold with Willis, getting two excellent seasons and two average ones before the bottom fell out in 2007. The Cubs on the other hand ended up with an excellent fourth starter for a few years before Clement left Chicago for the Boston Red Sox and subsequently suffered an injury.

The Mike Hampton/Juan Pierre Trade

Trade: The Marlins sent Charles Johnson, Preston Wilson, Vic Darensbourg, and Pablo Ozuna to the Colorado Rockies for Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre. The Marlins then sent Hampton to the Atlanta Braves for Tim Spooneybarger and Ryan Baker

Prognosis: Slight Win

This trade felt more like a salary dump for two of the teams involved. The Rockies and Fish looked like they were just dumping contracts on each other; the Marlins interested in ridding themselves of Wilson and CJ’s large contract signed in 2000, while the Rockies were more than willing to send off the mistake that was Mike Hampton’s eight-year, $121M pact to some other team. The Braves actually looked like the only team gaining, hoping that Hampton’s return to normal atmosphere would return him to being good. The Marlins did, however, make off with Pierre, who before the trade had put up a decent 1.8 WAR season in his second full year in the bigs. As a stellar defender who was team controlled for another four years at the time, the move was a good one for the Marlins. The only negatives were that the remaining pieces received were two relievers who were no better than most relievers and that the Marlins were stuck footing a significant amount of Hampton’s contract for the Braves as part of the deal.

The Ivan Rodriguez Signing

Contract: Ivan Rodriguez for one year, $10M

Prognosis: Win

Pudge was around a 4-WAR player that season, far from his greatest productive years in Texas, but still very valuable. Pudge’s .297/.369/.474 line was worth a quite respectable .361 wOBA, and his defense was solidly average at catcher according to TotalZone. Based on what the market paid for that year, the Marlins got $13.3M in production for the one year and paid $10M, a slightly favorable deal. The loss was perhaps in having Pudge walk, as the Marlins did not receive above average contributions from that position until 2009.

The Ugeth Urbina Trade

Trade: The Marlins sent Adrian Gonzalez, Will Smith, and Ryan Snare to the Texas Rangers for Ugeth Urbina.

Prognosis: Loss

Urbina provided about a quarter of a season worth of excellent relief work, giving the Fish 38 1/3 innings of 1.41 ERA/2.80 FIP, en route to 1-2 WAR, depending on who you ask. While he was shaky at times in the playoffs, his effective play down the stretch obviously helped the Marlins make the playoffs and head to the World Series. But was he worth Gonzalez, a former No. 1 pick from 2000 who was still highly regarded in the system? True, Gonzalez was coming off an injury, but he was still on Top 10 lists back in those days. Was he worth literally 30% of a season of relief pitching? Probably not. The Marlins likely overpaid a bit for Urbina, and knowing they would not resign him made this move a bid dubious.

The Derrek Lee Trade

Trade: The Marlins sent Derrek Lee to the Chicago Cubs for Hee-Seop Choi and Mike Nannini

Prognosis: Push

This was a pure salary dump by the Fish. At the time of the trade, I did not think as highly of Lee as I do now, but he was coming off of a 4-WAR season in which he batted .271/.379/.508. The team could not afford his salary and dealt him essentially straight up for Choi. Choi actually was a promising player as a 25-year old prospect out of Korea. He started 2004 with a bang, but then was inexplicably traded as part of the Brad Penny deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Next time, we’ll delve into the Penny trade and the sales of 2006.